I predict Hillary Clinton will become the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee at the July 2020 DNC convention. However, Trump will ultimately win re-election in November.
The most important thing to know when analyzing national elections in the United States is that there is an “establishment” wing of the Democratic Party and a “grassroots” wing. This dichotomy is true of the Republican Party as well. The generally successful strategy for candidates is to hold extreme policy positions during the primary season to generate grassroots support, then shift to a moderate policy platform in the general election to attract independent voters. Candidates have to appear credible to both constituencies (establishment and grassroots) while managing the policy shift from extreme-to-moderate.
Elizabeth Warren had a dramatic surge in the polls during the Fall of 2019. She was drawing crowds of over 10,000 people to her campaign events. Warren’s main platform is economic populism, which she articulates very well and which resonates powerfully with the Democratic base. The problem? Elizabeth Warren’s brand of economic populism does not resonate with the Party’s donor class, the “establishment”. Even as her popularity surged among the party’s base, the large donors and corporate elite, who would not benefit under Warren’s policies, withheld support. Warren lost momentum and she has fallen in the polls ever since.
Bernie Sanders has had a consistently popular democratic socialist platform and his poll numbers are challenging the frontrunner, Joe Biden. Bernie does not have the support of the donor class, but unlike Warren, he does not need it. In the last 3 months of 2019, Bernie Sanders raised $34 million from 1.8 million donations, with the average donation being $18. The donor class does not like his anti-capital positions and many in the Democratic Party do not believe (perhaps mistakenly) that he can win in the general election due to his democratic socialist platform. Most importantly, Sanders is 78 years old, and his health is an issue - he had a heart attack on October 1, 2019.
Joe Biden is often considered the perfect candidate. He is beloved by the grassroots for his “folksy” manner and by the donor class alike. He has a long political history and is therefore a predictable choice for the establishment. However, his cognitive abilities have severely deteriorated. He has clear neurological problems and is struggling. It really begs the question, why is the Democratic Party running a 77 year old man with clear cognitive impairments as its frontrunner? More on this later.
The other candidates are interesting but not likely to gain meaningful traction. Bloomberg is notable for his business prowess and deep financial reserves and relationships. However, after spending $300 million on advertising, his poll numbers barely improved. He simply does not have the charisma to run a successful national campaign. Some analysts have surmised that he is running to insert Gun Control more prominently into the national debate. Regardless, for our purposes, he is not relevant. If he pre-announces a vice presidential running mate with charisma, he could possibly create a compelling candidacy.
Buttigieg is well-liked among the younger generation of the donor class (Silicon Valley) but he struggles with the base. He has a peculiar establishment background (Harvard, naval intelligence, Mckinsey, etc.) and his father founded the International Gramsci Society. It is an interesting plot line and could gain traction given his powerful allies, but probably not relevant to the final election outcome. Tulsi Gabbard is notable as a veteran and for her anti-war platform which resonates with the base, but the establishment is adamantly against her platform and independent streak. Andrew Yang is a highly intelligent and independent candidate, which is interesting in terms of what his candidacy says about the base, but he is most likely irrelevant for the 2020 final outcome.
The Democratic Party has a primary system that includes “super delegates”. Voters in the Democratic primaries cast their vote at polling locations throughout their state. The state Democratic Party then awards state delegates to the candidates proportionally, according to how many votes they received. The state Party sends those delegates to the national Democratic Party convention where they are “pledged” to vote according to the state vote tallies for each candidate. Super delegates also represent the state at the national convention but they are unpledged delegates, i.e. not bound by the results of the state’s primary voting. Super delegates can vote for any candidate they choose at the national convention.
For instance, in the 2016 Iowa caucuses, 704 local delegates (representing primary voters at the state level) voted for Hillary Clinton while 700 local delegates voted for Bernie Sanders. This resulted in Clinton having 23 pledged state delegates from Iowa for the DNC national convention and Bernie Sanders having 21 pledged delegates. However, 6 “super delegates” sided with Clinton giving her a total of 29 delegates from Iowa for the national convention. In 2016, 85 percent of super delegates supported Hillary Clinton.
In 2016, Debbie Wasserman Schultzs, chair of the Democratic National Committee (the governing organization of the Democratic Party), actually stated in an interview, “Unpledged delegates exist to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don't have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists.” Due to broad anger in the Democratic Party’s base about what was perceived as a bias in the establishment’s favor, the Party changed the rules such that super delegates only come into play if the national convention becomes a “brokered convention”.
A “brokered convention”
A “brokered convention” simply means that if no candidate has a clear majority of votes after the first ballot at the DNC national convention in July, there is a second round of voting. For a candidate to win the Democratic Party nomination during the first round of voting, they have to receive 1,919 delegate votes. With at least three strong contenders (Biden, Sanders, Warren) and others rising, there is a real possibility of no candidate receiving that minimum number of delegates.
After heavy criticism over the role of super delegates in the 2016 election, the DNC changed its rules in 2018 such that super delegates can only play a role in a second round of voting at the national convention. So conceivably, no current candidate wins on the first round of voting. At that point, it becomes a brokered convention, and all delegates that were previously pledged to one candidate are “released” and can vote for whomever they choose. In the second round of voting, an entirely new candidate can enter the race.
Such an unstable scenario allows Hillary Clinton to enter the field as a “savior” from the chaos. Hillary still has a strong grip on the DNC and is actively participating in meetings, according to sources that have been on DNC conference calls. Tulsi Gabbard called this out in October, “From the day I announced my candidacy, there has been a campaign to destroy my reputation. We wondered who was behind it, and now we know… I challenge her [Clinton] to come out from behind her proxies and powerful allies in the corporate media, and face me directly.” Hillary Clinton went so far as to state that Russia is “grooming” Gabbard as a third party candidate and said, “She [Tulsi] is the favorite of the Russians.” More recently, Hillary Clinton has been attacking Bernie Sanders in the press. So Clinton has been shaping the race from the beginning.
The benefit of a brokered convention for Hillary Clinton is that it looks organic and she can avoid the accusation of 2016 - that she rigged the nomination process against Bernie Sanders. Also, if nominated in July, her candidacy would be only 3 months long. Much of the negative press that plagued her public life would not have sufficient time to gather speed. Also, such a short period would be much easier on her health which was called into question during the 2016 race.
The fact that the Democratic Party and its media allies continue to push Biden as the frontrunner is conspicuous. It is an interesting question as to whether Biden was placed in the primaries intentionally to split the vote and allow for a brokered convention. Hillary understands how unpopular she is among American voters and by having Biden represent the establishment throughout the primaries, she keeps Bernie Sanders from getting the required 1,919 delegates at the convention and effectively bypasses all of the drama and close examination of the primary season.
The Clinton strategy
Hillary Clinton will use the next 6 months to shape her image as someone who can act as a “savior” from the chaos and beat Donald Trump. The line will be, “you may not like me, but I’m effective”. Her DNC and media allies will be pushing a message of “anyone but Trump”.
For her savior image to work, she will need a voting base that is (a) destabilized via the brokered convention and (b) desperate for a savior that can defeat Trump. Over the next months, she will try to avoid the appearance that she is preparing to enter the race at the convention, but it will be difficult. She will also try to balance support for the frontrunners (currently Biden, Sanders, Warren), using her corporate media allies, so that no candidate gets a majority at the convention in July. That will primarily entail her and her allies attacking Bernie Sanders who is the clear frontrunner for grassroots voters.
Then, if Hillary Clinton becomes the candidate in July, she will utilize her allies in the mainstream press to keep the attention on Trump. The mainstream media is already a massive echo chamber with 93% of news being negative toward Trump. Hillary will run on an “anything but Trump” platform and will limit the news flow about herself or her campaign. She will utilize her allies in Silicon Valley and the mainstream press to actively shape the news flow.
There is a new documentary coming out about Hillary Clinton in March, and the first look reveals an honest message of “yes, I am a divisive leader, and I know it’s hard to like me”. So in this first stage, she will acknowledge the problems of her past candidacy and public life. In the next stage, that vulnerability and honest assessment will be followed with a “So what? The Party is in disarray and it needs me.” The tone and presence of her “stealth” candidacy will become more strong and ruthless as we approach the July convention. Her strategic goal is for strength to be more important than likability at the convention.
I predict that Hillary Clinton will become the Democratic nominee, but Trump will win again in the November 2020 election. The support among his base has only increased since 2016. Tens of thousands of voters are still flocking to his rallies, sometimes waiting 20 hours in freezing temperatures to get inside.
The attacks on him so far have been unsuccessful. “Russia Gate” - accusations that Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election - led nowhere. In the wake of the November impeachment hearings over dealings with Ukraine, Trump’s approval numbers actually increased. The public’s reaction to the impeachment was largely indifference, despite the mainstream press and Democratic leadership trumpeting that “the fate of our democracy hinges on this moment”. Currently, the Senate is holding a trial after receiving articles of impeachment from the House of Representatives. Trump’s approval rating rose 3 points during the trial’s first week.
The US public is experiencing “Trump fatigue” and shrugs off every controversy the Democratic party tries to pin on Trump. The establishment wing/ Clinton team would like to believe that 2020 is different, but the public will simply see a Clinton versus Trump matchup in the exact same light as 2016. In addition, Bernie Sanders supporters will be even more enraged in 2020 and even less likely to vote for Hillary Clinton in November.
How Trump could lose
There is one main scenario where Trump loses and that is if the United States enters recession prior to the election in 2020. That currently appears unlikely, although there are signs that we are nearing the end of this business cycle. For instance, the unemployment rate is at a record low. We have a robust economy with no slack in the labor market. At the same time, consumer debt defaults are rising. Historically, there is a significant lead time from when consumer defaults start rising and the unemployment rate turns up again leading into a recession so it appears unlikely in 2020.
The economic environment seems similar to the wage-push inflationary environment of the mid-1960s. Inflation was just starting to pick up, but no one knew it or felt it. Trump voters may be losing ground due to this burgeoning inflationary environment, but they don’t recognize it. Inflation starts out as a stealth problem. Ironically, that is helpful for Trump who only needs voters to feel good for the next 10 months.
There will be other attempts to stop Trump - accusations of sexual misconduct, corrupt business dealings, abuse of executive power - but none of these have worked so far. If Trump’s actions in Ukraine and Iran are any indication, he has so far been effective at thwarting geopolitical sabotage efforts (i.e. Kerry back-channeling with Iran).
There is one other outlier that has to be considered. Voter fraud and outright election fraud are very real problems. Consider the fact that some California counties reported more votes than there are registered voters. So Trump could be defeated with an orchestrated and targeted Election Fraud strategy - whether via the electronic voting machines or through actual physical voting. In several key swing states, he only won by several thousand votes so it is a real possibility. There is also the impact of Silicon Valley’s grip on social media. The prominent research psychologist Dr. Robert Epstein has estimated that Google was able to shift between 3 and 10 million votes to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election via manipulating search results.
The fight for the American Empire
There is a loose constellation of corporate and political interest groups that protect the American Empire’s structure, which allows for leveraging American financial and military power globally to establish advantageous trade regimes and political unions. This worked for awhile, but now the American public can no longer bear the burden of the Empire.
In the course of setting up and defending this structure, many “globalist” agents set up what are essentially toll booths along the frontier of the empire. If foreign partners want into the imperial core, or internal actors want outside, they have to pay the toll to these globalist operatives. Over time, the loyalty of these operatives to the United States has come into question. Trump is part of a group that is loyal to the United States and trying to rebalance the American Empire. These “toll keepers” are not happy about it.
For instance, he boasts of Saudi Arabia paying $1 Billion for more troops. He wants countries to pay to host American troops and bases. He wants NATO members to pay more. He wants to renegotiate trade agreements. He wants Europe to buy American energy. Every foreign policy initiative by Trump can be reduced to this rebalancing effort.
The American public doesn’t fully understand this strategic shift, but they intuitively grasp that Trump is trying to do something different than the “globalist” status quo and so they vote for him, even if they don’t like him as a person. There are many different “deep states” and “globalists” in the US. Trump represents a nationalist brand with its own military, intelligence, corporate and financial assets. The group working with Trump has no choice but to exercise all available resources to ensure he wins the 2020 election.
In January 2016, I predicted that Trump would win because he presented the most compelling case for rebalancing the American Empire. I predict he will win again.